Treasure Island

Robert Browning

(1812-1889 / London / England)

My Last Duchess


FERRARA.

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fr Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
``Fr Pandolf'' by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Fr Pandolf chanced to say ``Her mantle laps
``Over my lady's wrist too much,'' or ``Paint
``Must never hope to reproduce the faint
``Half-flush that dies along her throat:'' such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart---how shall I say?---too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace---all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,---good! but thanked
Somehow---I know not how---as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech---(which I have not)---to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, ``Just this
``Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
``Or there exceed the mark''---and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
---E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Submitted: Sunday, May 13, 2001

Do you like this poem?
4 person liked.
1 person did not like.

What do you think this poem is about?



Read poems about / on: together, husband, daughter, horse, joy, passion, smile, hope, sea, thanks, work, rose

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (My Last Duchess by Robert Browning )

Enter the verification code :

  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (7/6/2014 3:41:00 AM)

    A poetry that loved much and recited in true spirits.It has its moral values and relevance between the art and real life I think and felt it so beautiful. (Report) Reply

  • Christopher Gould (7/7/2013 3:15:00 PM)

    The Duke is a man of refinement: a politician and an aesthete but he seems morally unbalanced and even a savage.Browning interests himself here with the relationship between art and life and art and morality which also interestd contemporaries like John Ruskin and Henry James.The duke even regards his wives as art objects to be owned and perhaps thrown away when unsatisfactory.
    I think Browning hints that the duke has a barbarian attitude which he gets from his German ancestors who came over the Alps into Italy nine hundred years previously.His link with Klaus of Insbruck is a link with a distant ho0meland whose attitudes he has not quite thrown off.
    So Browning is certainly not one who thinks to be aesthetically aware is to be moral; it might be just to be posessive.Characters in other poems are reminiscent of the Duke and the Duchess.She is of a free hearted and loving type who lives for the moment like Brother Lawrence or the one who sang Oh to be in England now that Aprils hereThe Duke is like The Pied Piper of Hamelin who has artistic powers and gifts but who takes a lethal revenge when he feels himself wronged.
    So the poem is a well told story but also a deep meditation (Report) Reply

  • Grim Reaper (2/19/2010 9:04:00 AM)

    One of Robert Browning's greatest poem is the My Last Duchess well known for the most dramatic poem he ever wrote.In the poem the last duchess was killed by her husband the duke who finds himself jealous for her the duchess seducing men by her image and likeness.Even in the portrait of her deceased duchess you can see how beauty can be a sin.The lesson here that love can be also deadly for it can kill someone you love.In my opinion the duke has the right kill her duchess for she is the one to be blame for hatred, jealousy, and pain of the duke.I deny the fact that love is the most good thing to happen but the real thing its not true.You can say that the duke is so selfish and so arrogant but the truth about it really hurts when your not being loved by your love ones.I can even relate my story but time is running out I need to sleep because my eyes really hurts and I need to shut my computer before its too late.... (Report) Reply

  • Earl Estologa (2/19/2010 1:34:00 AM)

    The poem speaks about the true intentions of the duke in a clever yet twisted way. It's all about the the duke's selfishness and pride. The duke is so obsessed with himself that he didn't like the way the duchess treat him. He want's all the attention from his duchess that he cannot simply handle the duchess attitude. I would say that this poem enchant's the reader's by the twisted plot with a lot of drama. I recommend this poem sothat you can understand the true meaning of love and selfishness. (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (4/22/2009 8:11:00 AM)

    A good summary, Sam. The Duke prefers his wife as a work of art (line two) as she causes him less stress that way. It was the gift of well-earned compliments, not objects, that delighted the Duchess and “the heart too soon made glad” that made the Duke (as cold as she was warm and spontaneous) jealous.
    “I choose / Never to stoop” is an ominous and disturbing line, as is “This grew, I gave commands/Then all smiles stopped together” and “There she stands/ As if alive.”
    The Duke is only able to handle his warm-hearted, impulsive wife when he can turn her into a work of art –and at the end of the poem he is discussing the dowry of his next wife!
    Without telling us what to think, Browning give us an in-depth knowledge of two very different people, their situation and relationship. No wonder his dramatic monologue is world famous (Report) Reply

  • Sam Plant (1/19/2009 11:41:00 AM)

    I will just give a quick summary of what I feel this poem is about.
    Basically, the way I see this poem is a warning to his future wife and her family.
    The situtation is that the Duke of Ferrara shows a painting of his previous Duchess that he had killed due to his jealousy.
    He makes complaints of how other men could make her happy with their gifts, for example the white mule. The Duke is severely jealous that she showed no more appreciation to him for his gifts. This is evident when Browning writes 'Somehow-I know not how-as if she ranked, My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name, With anybody's gift.'
    Unable to handle this jealousy and unable to 'stoop' and 'blame this type of trifling' the Duke simply orders his lover to be killed.
    Then the final few lines give another quick insight into another area of the Dukes somewhat bitter personality. He says 'Together down, sir' after the murder of the Duchess as though it is nothing to him and also, he speaks of the statue of Neptune, taming a seahorse. The Duke likes to see taming, as he wanted to tame the Duchess and make her show less gratitude to people bearing gifts for her. (Report) Reply

  • Raj Nandy (9/4/2008 8:44:00 AM)

    This poem speaks of the supreme mastery of Robert Browning and the great ease
    with which he paints a canvas before our eyes! Infact there are two paintings here!
    One, the protrait of the Last Duches on the wall; , and the other which the poet paints through his skilful narration! Making both appear 'as if alive! ' As an old
    student of English Literature, I dare not commit the sin of trying to grade Browning!
    This poem for me is priceless! -Raj Nandy (Report) Reply

  • Siyamdumisa Vilakazi (9/23/2007 3:53:00 AM)

    Written in 1842 by Robert Browning, 'My Last Duchess' is the dramatic monologue of the duke of Ferrara who is negotiating his second marriage through an agent of the count of Tyrol on the grand staircase of the ducal palace at Ferrara in northern Italy. Executing the elements of a dramatic monologue, the duke reveals his situation and much more than he intends to the both the agent and the reader.

    Using iambic pentameter AABB couplets Robert Browning reveals the horrifying story of the murder of the duke's previous wife through the duke's conversation with the agent. As the duke attempts to paint an inaccurate picture of himself to the agent, desiring to appear as a nobel, but abused and caring, loving husband who had no choice but to murder his prideful, disrespectful wife, the duke's true controlling, manipulative, jealous nature is revealed.

    The duke's desire for control is made evident by the structure of the poem, through his appreciation of art, and his response to the trivial incidences that led to the death of his wife. The frequent use of caesura throughout the poem emphasize the duke's control over the conversation. The duke's appreciation of art reveals the control he has over the artists that produce his works of art; the portrait of his last duchess and the statue of Neptune. Although the duke was unable to control the duchess when she was alive, after her death he is in complete control of her. The duke says 'none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I, ' revealing that now he is able to control both the duchess's countenance and who views the portrait by a curtain covering the portrait (10) .

    The duke's loss of control is also depicted through the rhythm of the poem. The run over lines in the poem, or enjambment in the poem, reveal the duke's nervous uneasiness over his wife's murder. For example, near the end of the poem, the duke loses control. The reader can only imagine the horrified agent rising to go down the staircase, the duke's uneasiness as he loses control, and his desire to regain control of the situation as he says, 'Nay we'll go down together, sir'(53) .

    The duke wants to appear as a hurt and abused husband whose disrespectful wife left him no alternative but to kill her. However his appreciation of art reveals that he values things that he can control and is contrasted with the images of nature that surround the duchess. The 'daylight in the West.....the bough of cherries, ' and 'the white mule, ' all natural objects that are associated with the duchess' happiness. These images of nature are a sharp contrast to the artificial objects the duke values. His unhappiness over the duchess' association with nature is revealed in the line 'I know not how-as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old-name with anybody's gift'(34) . It is clear that the duke believes that his name, something artificial, is of greater value than the natural objects that cause the duchess joy.

    In the end it is the duke's loss of control that causes him to kill her. His inability to control the live duchess herself, resulted in her death, and now all that remains is another valued object, which he is in complete control of. (Report) Reply

  • Natasha Nageswaran (9/14/2006 5:55:00 AM)

    This is one of my favourite poems.. Its all about relationship, power, treachery and cruelty. He highlights the obsessive character of a duke who kills his young and beautiful wife for he suspects that she is frivolous. The potrait of the duchess made my Fra Pandolf is an epitome of beauty, grace and purity. The duke invites an envoy from a neighbourhood and subtly warns him that if he marries the new the new duchess from the envoy's kingdom, she too will meet the same fate unless she resigns herself completely to the duke. The sarcasm uttered by the duke at the end of the poem aptly portrays his character.. 'Notice Neptune taming a sea horse' (Report) Reply

  • Daphne Grant (3/20/2006 4:05:00 PM)

    This poem is about the character of the man, who killed his wife with unkind words, her natural charm and grace was loved by all who knew her.He valued posessions more than his beautiful young and charming wife, and is about to marry another who has I think a good dowry. (Report) Reply

Read all 12 comments »

New Poems

  1. 雨Rain, qin xing
  2. Kamikaze Heart, Kewayne Wadley
  3. 难道你真是一片云( Don't you is really a cloud? ), qin xing
  4. Assuring Voice, Somanathan Iyer
  5. Synchronization, SALINI NAIR
  6. Best World, Kolade Seun
  7. For you, rest in peace, Cigeng Zhang
  8. Moon Beams, Yohan Confectioner
  9. Falling Through, Claudia Scott
  10. City Of Angels, RoseAnn V. Shawiak

Poem of the Day

poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
...... Read complete »

 

Modern Poem

poet Randall Jarrell

 

Trending Poems

  1. 04 Tongues Made Of Glass, Shaun Shane
  2. Daffodils, William Wordsworth
  3. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  4. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  5. If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
  6. Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
  7. No Man Is An Island, John Donne
  8. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
  9. Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
  10. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Trending Poets

[Hata Bildir]